Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

How Many Governments?

The Census Bureau recently released its 2012 Census of Governments. Apparently there are 89,004 local governments in the United States. As he’s done before, the inestimable Chris Briem put together a word cloud of what those look like, sized by number of employees. Here’s the preview, but you can click through for a large PDF (51 MB) with the full zoom capabilities that just might test your system processing power.

Here’s a Census Bureau thematic map of the number of number of governments by state and county:

As always, Illinois takes the #1 position for the most total governments. Whet Moser has the gory details over at Chicago Magazine in The Land of 7,000 Governments.

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3 Responses to “How Many Governments?”

  1. Chris Barnett says:

    The bulk of the original “Northwest Territory” (Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin) was divided into relatively small counties (a day’s ride on a horse) and townships so it is no surprise that those states have such a high density of government units.

    As you no doubt know, Indiana has 92 counties and about 1,000 townships. Only a few townships (mostly suburban ones) consolidated with nearby cities and towns after the legislature passed enabling legislation a few years ago.

    Even after “consolidation”, the nine original townships of Indianapolis-Marion County still exist with trustees and boards. So Marion County has the city-county, nine townships, and four excluded cities, plus a number of “included towns” that still function at some level.

    It’s a crazy-quilt.

  2. Chris says:

    On Long Island the situation is very similar. Even though a consolidation law was passed only a few districts were consolidated. An attempt to merger a special sanitation district with the one serving the majority of the town has resulted in lawsuits and claims of invalid petition signatures.

  3. What has been particularly interesting to me is the sharp contrast in governments along the Mason-Dixon line: not the figurative one…the literal. Pennsylvania is one of the most incorporated states in the country; Maryland is one of the least. Hugely populated counties like Anne Arundel still only have two incorporated municipalities. Meanwhile, a heavily rural state like Mississippi might pale in comparison to Illinois, but it has a lot more municipal governments than Maryland.

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